“Rolling,” said the captain of the Pirate, “hadn’t you better go home and tell Trunnell he wants you? Seems to me you’ll have a long row back in the hot sun. I’d ask you all aboard, but this ship ain’t mine. She belongs to a friend who owes me a little due, see? Now be a sensible little fellow. Rolling, and go back nicely, or I’ll have to do some target practice, or else cut this rope. Give my kindest regards to the ladies, especially Mrs. Sackett. Tell her that I wouldn’t have dreamed of deserting her under any other circumstances, but this brig has got the devil in her and is running away with me. I can’t stop her, and I can’t say I would if I could. That infernal King Neptune has got hold of her keel and is pulling us along. Good-by, Rolling; don’t by any possible means disturb the charts on my trunk. There, let go, you Ford.”
Ford cast the line adrift, and the boat’s headway slacked. The brig drifted slowly ahead, going at least three knots through the smooth water. A long row of smiling faces showed over the rail as we came from under her stern. One fellow, waving his hand, cried out to report Bill Jones of Nantucket as “bein’ tolerable well, thank ye.” It was evident they knew nothing of Jackwell and treated the going of the brig as a good joke on greenhorns.
“That beats me,” said Ford, panting from his last exertions.
“An’ me too,” said Johnson. “If we’d had Tom and one or two more along we’d have beat her easy. But ain’t he a-comin’ back at all at all?”
“I hardly think we’ll see Captain Thompson any more this voyage,” I answered savagely; “but by the Lord Harry, he’s left his trunk all right.”
When we rowed back to the ship, Trunnell was looking at us through the glass up to the time we came under the Pirate’s counter. He evidently could see that our skipper wasn’t with us, and it seemed as if he could not quite make up his mind to the fact, but must keep looking through the telescope as though the powerful glass would bring the missing one into view. We ran up to the channels, and he looked over the side. A line of heads in the waist told of the curiosity among the men forward.
I said nothing, and nothing was said until the painter was made fast and Ford had sprung on deck.
“He ain’t with ye, Rolling?” asked Trunnell.
I was too much disgusted to answer. The empty boat was enough to satisfy any reasonable person.
Chips came to the rail and leaned over as I came up the chain-plates. “‘Twas so, then? Th’ raskil! But what makes th’ bloody hooker move? She’s slantin’ away as if th’ devil himself ware holdin’ av her fore foot!”
“Steam, you poor idiots,” I cried out, in disgust, for it was evident that even Trunnell couldn’t tell what made the Shark get headway, although now the smoke poured handsomely from her masthead.